Vice President Leni Robredo has met with presidential contender Senator Panfilo Lacson and his running mate, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, as they sought to unite groups and personalities against the administration slate for next year’s national elections.
Robredo’s camp on Wednesday also told ex-Senator Antonio Trillanes IV that it was still too early to talk about giving way to any presidential candidate in the 2022 polls.
Lawyer Barry Gutierrez, Robredo’s spokesperson, said it was “extremely premature to talk of ‘giving way’ when VP Leni has not yet made a definitive announcement regarding her candidacy for President.”
“What she has said before stands: she remains open to running for President, and will announce her decision at the appropriate time,” he said in a statement.
Liberal Party president Sen. Francis Pangilinan said he helped arrange the meeting last week among Robredo, Lacson and Sotto in coordination with the Office of the Vice President.
She also met recently with Senator Richard Gordon, who is eyeing his own presidential run.
Lacson and Sotto were the first candidates to announce their candidacy in next year’s elections.
Pangilinan stressed that as Robredo said several weeks ago, “the unity of all those who share a common belief in providing genuine solutions to the country’s problems is key come 2022 if we are to put the country on the right track towards succeeding in reaching the twin goals of defeating COVID and achieving economic recovery.”
Pangilinan declined to provide additional details, saying: “That is all that I am at liberty to say right now.”
Lacson confirmed meeting the Vice President with Sotto during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay Forum on Wednesday but refused to provide specific points that were raised in the session.
Lacson said he was with Sotto while Robredo was accompanied by former senator Bam Aquino, a Liberal Party stalwart who was the Vice President’s campaign manager when she won the post in 2016.
“This is all part of the VP’s commitment to forge the broadest possible unity among groups and individuals seeking change in 2022,” Gutierrez said.
Robredo, the de facto leader of the opposition, is still contemplating on seeking the country’s highest position. She was also reported to be eyeing the governorship of her home province Camarines Sur.
Aquino said they talked about the country’s situation and the kind of leadership needed “to overcome the many crises we are facing.”
“Perhaps, it would be better if you ask VP and Sen. Ping about the meeting,” said Aquino, who is running for the Senate anew in next year’s elections.
“But it is my personal goal to unify an extensive force that is capable of infusing genuine reforms for the people,” he added.
“I can’t divulge what we talked about because I have no authority over her to share about it. But we talked,” stated Pangilinan.
The senator said this was not the first time the Liberal Party is reaching out to potential candidates for President. He said that last June 22, they reached out to Lacson and other rumored candidates such as Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso for the “broadest unity possible”.
Lacson said since he left LDP, this will be the only time that he will have a political party for an election, having always run as an independent candidate.
“My political party when I first ran in 2001 and was elected as senator was LDP. In the 2004 presidential election our group along with the late Agapito ‘Butch’ Aquino who was the party Secgen, Cong. Carlos Padilla, Cong Rolex Suplico and others broke away when the late FPJ was adopted as its presidential candidate without a party convention,” he said.
“Since then, I remained independent until now that I’ll be joining Reporma, which was the party that launched the candidacy of former SND Renato de Villa,” related Lacson.
At the same time, Lacson admitted that Sotto has more chances of winning than him.
“Let’s face reality, I am ranking low in the surveys at this point. But the Senate President is ranking pretty high, and he has more chances of winning, of making it more than me. That’s reality,” said the former national police chief.
He mentioned recent pre-election surveys results, showing he got only 7-percent voter preference as a presidential candidate, a 21-point difference from the most preferred presidential bet, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Sotto was the third most preferred vice-presidential candidate with a 10-percent voter preference.
However, Lacson vowed to give a “good fight” in the presidential race since he “has never been so determined more than now.”
Lacson also said he and Sotto are prepared for whatever outcome the elections will bring them.
“If we don’t make it, we’re prepared for it and at least we gave it a good fight and what we’re fighting for is not for our benefit but for our countrymen,” he added.